Age is a funny thing. Age is a scary thing. Age is just a number and a defining characteristic. More than anything, age is confusing.
For instance, today is Tom Bradys 35th birthday.
This might sound ridiculous, but Im affected by Bradys age almost as much as I am my own. As a Boston sports fan who was born in the 80s, grew up in the 90s and believed in the impossible until February 2002, Im part of a generation thats come to be defined by Tom Brady.
We were young when he was young. The older he gets, the older we get. Over the last 11 years, weve gone from high school and college kids to functioning adults. Weve messed things up, and figured things out. Weve built careers; in some cases met wives, had children and started families. And one of the few constants has been Tom Brady. Not only playing football, but growing up right along with us.
For many of us, Brady is our last idol. The last guy that we can justifiably look up to; the only athlete who can still make a 32 year old feel like hes 12. So in a weird (and morbid) way, Bradys career has turned into an hourglass for our youth. As long hes still playing football, were all young. But when he walks away . . .
Well, what happens when the defining athlete of your generation retires?
I think it means that your generations over.
But enough depressing talk. After all, theres a good chance that I might be overly sensitive about Bradys age. For one, because our birthdays are exactly six months apart, so when he celebrates a birthday, Im a half-year older. Its a convenient reminder, and a good time for reflection. On top of that, my fathers birthday is tomorrow. So as you can see: Its an emotional two-day stretch.
My dad, Tom and I were all in the Superdome that night in February '02. Its one of the greatest memories that my dad and I have together, and certainly one of the greatest memories that Brady will ever have. I was a 22-year old college senior (the game was on my birthday), without a clue of what I wanted to do. Brady was 24 and a half, and on top of the world. My Dad was 55.
Tomorrow, hell turn 66. Today, Im 32 and a half. And that 24-year-old kid who had just become the youngest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl is now a 35-year-old married man with two kids and another on the way.
Thats crazy. And heres where it gets confusing.
Back in 2002, or even 2007, the thought of a 35-year-old Tom Brady was terrifying. The same way the thought of me being 32 or my dad being 66 would have scared me to no end.
But today, its not so bad.
My dads healthier and more active at 66 than he was at 36. Sure, there are plenty days when I miss being 22, but to be 32 with everything Ive learned and experienced over the last 10 years under my belt, its pretty great.
As for Brady?
35s a joke. Hes a better quarterback now than he was back then. Hes still one of the Top 3 QBs in the league and has shown no signs of slowing down. Even if he does slow down, speed was never his strong suit. As long he avoids major injury (obviously), Brady can play at a high level even if it's not this high into his 40s. And by the way hes talking, don't be surprised if he does.
So, Tom Brady is 35. Maybe the end is a little closer than it was in 2002. Maybe we're all a little older, with real lives and real responsibilities. But that doesn't make us old.
After all, what is age? Yeah, its funny. Its scary. Its confusing. But really, age is what you make of it. And there's no doubt that Brady will the make it count. Good news for the Pats.
Great news for the Brady Generation.